How to Behave in a Court

Law School prepares you to think, write and research like a lawyer, but once you’re at the door of a law firm or a courtroom, there’s a whole new set of skills you need. The present series of articles aims to enrich a new lawyer with all these skills in order for him/her to excel.

For most new lawyers, appearing in court is a scary thing. You get so nervous on seeing the judge that you can barely summon the courage to make eye contact with him or her. But as you get more experienced, the terror wears off and your deference to the court may also diminish. That’s when your behaviour can get you into trouble.

Rules on the professional standards that an advocate needs to maintain are mentioned in Chapter II, Part VI of the Bar Council of India Rules. Thereunder, it is clearly mentioned that an advocate needs to act in a dignified manner before a court. “During the presentation of his case and also while acting before a court, an advocate should act in a dignified manner. He should at all times conduct himself with self-respect.”

Further, the lawyer is required to show respect to the court. “An advocate should always show respect towards the court. An advocate has to bear in mind that the dignity and respect maintained towards judicial office is essential for the survival of a free community.”

“An advocate should not communicate in private to a judge with regard to any matter pending before the judge or any other judge. An advocate should not influence the decision of a court in any matter using illegal or improper means such as coercion, bribe, etc.”

“He shall be dignified in use of his language in correspondence and during arguments in court. He shall not scandalously damage the reputation of the parties on false grounds during pleadings. He shall not use unparliamentary language during arguments in the court.”

“An advocate should appear in court at all times only in the dress prescribed under the Bar Council of India Rules and his appearance should always be presentable.”

Here are some do’s and don’ts to be kept in mind at all times while appearing in a court:

• When you are arguing on behalf of a client, stay on point.

• Do not orally re-state everything that you’ve already put in writing in a motion or brief. Most judges are prepared. In oral arguments, it is important to amplify what is set forth in a motion or brief but not to wander all over the place. Only provide additional points to convince the court of your client’s position.

• Be prepared. Don’t fumble around with paperwork in court. This is not only an embarrassment to you as well as your client, but also a reason to lose a motion or a case.

• Don’t lie. If your client is telling you to lie, perhaps it is time for you to withdraw from a case. If you build up a reputation for not telling the truth, it is going to hurt you in the long run.

• If you are winning a motion or a case, stop talking. When you keep on talking, you eventually get off the point and all you do is undermine the case and probably set yourself and the client up for a loss.

• Be courteous. You may not always agree with the judge, but remember his/her position commands respect. Always be respectful in court.

• Dress appropriately, and as prescribed by the Bar Council of India Rules. Remember, your appearance creates the first impression on the judge.

• Explain to your client, at the outset, what to expect in court and how to behave.

• Be punctual. Never ever keep the other side waiting, and make sure that your client is also on time.

Even though the judges understand that the mild reaction of the advocate is because of their disappointment on adverse ruling, never offend the court enough to commit contempt of court.

*Executive Editor, Lawyers Update; Director General, Universal Institute of Legal Studies

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